Advantages of a personal digital assistant ( PDA )

A personal digital assistant ( PDA ) allows you to efficiently access, organize, collect, store, and process various kinds of information, and work with it on the run. It is small in size, like a pocket calculator or a pocket address book. Being a hand-held electronic device, it is designed to fit your palm as easily as your pocket. Unlike an ordinary computer, it is always with you.

Yet, a handheld PDA is much smarter than most pocket electronic devices and time management tools. It is a computer with a powerful processor and quite a large chunk of memory, like 8-128 Mb. A PDA allows you to run any of thousands of various kinds of software applications currently available for it.

You can easily communicate with a PDA via its oversized interactive screen area, its special pen (the stylus) for touching that screen, and support of a few extra buttons at its bottom. A PDA often can recognize your hand writing.

Basic functionality of a PDA is to store and retrieve phone numbers and addresses, maintain a to do list and a calendar. It is also a memo pad for taking notes at meetings, as well as for capturing ideas, observations, and personal comments.

There are two main features that put a hand-held PDA much above a basic personal organizer. One is its ability to be connected and communicate with many other electronic devices, like a PC or digital camera. The other is the extensive abilities of the pda software. Together with the third, the "always with you" feature, all this combines into a powerful and versatile personal assistant.

So, the first important point is that you can connect a PDA to other electronic devices, though sometimes it may require additional PDA accessories. That allows you to work with a larger variety of data, much beyond of what you can just type in into a basic personal organizer. In particular, many PDAs can be connected to your PC for a data or file exchange. You can add the information you've collected with a PDA to some central database or to a report that you do on your PC. You can also get more information into your PDA from your PC, for example, from internet downloads (e-books or newspaper files) or other files. Another common situation is to get into your PDA images from your digital camera.

It is also important that two PDAs can talk directly to each other via infrared signals ("beaming"), which allows an easy exchange of information, for example, exchange of business cards, without typing anything in. This is particularly convenient when working in a team. For example, if one of the team members has collected certain important data and made updates for himself or herself, those updates can be distributed among all team members via beaming. This is one of the reasons why many business owners buy PDAs for their employees.

As for PDA software applications, they include word processing, spreadsheets, games, money management, weight or fitness monitoring, electronic book reading programs, street map PDA software, bible software, a Power Point presenter and many more. Some for general users, some for more specialized professional groups, like car salespeople, real estate agents, medical doctors, or lawyers. Some PDAs allow e-mail and internet access, while on many others you can prepare e-mails on a PDA but send them later, when you connect to your PC. Some of that software may already be installed on your PDA when you by it. Often you need to buy or download it from the internet, sometimes for free.

Note that, in combination, all those possibilities of exchanging information and keeping electronic files and software on your PDA greatly reduce the amount of paper (document and reference printouts, various notes) you need to shuffle and carry around.

What about security concerns? With a PDA you can do a regular backup of your PDA held data onto your PC. So, security-wise, a PDA still beats paper systems.

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